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Saturday, August 01 2015 09:16

  • Posted Nov. 26, 2014 at 12:17 PM

    At lunch recently with a couple of friends — neither one a Catholic — I was only a little surprised to find how enthusiastic they feel about Pope Francis. The Pew Research Center has found that 56 percent of non-Catholics welcome a major change in direction for the Catholic Church.
    These surveys show that, after less than two years in the papacy, this pope has won notable approval both from Catholics and from those of other religions or none.
    What strikes me about this achievement, however, is how few actual changes in basic church practices Pope Francis has brought about.
    Some of his influence comes from his own style of life. For instance, he lives in an ordinary apartment rather than in Renaissance splendor. And he eats with fellow clerics and others instead of dining apart, as popes used to do.
    More important, many admire the way Francis has reached out to the poor, and urged other Catholic leaders to do the same. As with the new archbishop of Chicago, installed last week, he emphasizes the needs and the dignity of people on the margins of society.
    He has also insisted on the need for church leaders to accept responsibility for offenses committed by priests and bishops against children and others.
    In bringing bishops and some lay people together in a recent synod in Rome, Francis has led the way to discussion of family issues. These issues remain unresolved, but will be discussed widely before a second synod next October.
    However, in a recent interview on CBS’s “Sixty Minutes,” Cardinal Sean O’Malley did not say much about what changes the Pope plans. It still seems unlikely that Francis will bring about same-sex marriage or approve the use of birth control by church members.
    As to a married priesthood, a considerable number of Catholic priests are already married and leading the way as parish pastors. But almost all of them are former Anglicans who came over to Rome.
    (Incidentally, the British Anglicans, by vote of church leaders and members of Parliament, are just now about to put woman bishops into leadership positions, as American Anglicans did many years ago.)
    The Catholic Church could easily accept as active priests those men who are married and wish to serve. It would also seem possible for women to serve as deacons, as indeed they did in the early church.
    Early in his papacy, Francis famously indicated that he values homosexual persons. The need to build on this brief but important statement ought to be spread more widely by the church.
    Cardinal O’Malley, during the CBS program, indicated almost contempt for how the Vatican had treated American nuns some two years ago. By dismissing the issues the sisters were working on and assigning bishops to discipline them, the papacy of that recent time had disgraced itself.
    The making of saints is always complicated. I would like to see lay people chosen, preferably not the rich or powerful. Dorothy Day is an obvious candidate. And, of course, I would also choose Oscar Romero, the archbishop of El Salvador, who was assassinated by government soldiers as he celebrated Mass.
    These are the people I bet Francis would like to choose for sainthood.
    At age 77, this pope is not a young man. he will have to take care of his body, not just his soul. That means recognizing that old age requires him to limit what he can accomplish. Clearly he cannot afford to do everything worthwhile.
    I would recognize his right to retire.  Now that his predecessor has made that respectable, Francis should not have to keep on working forever.  But I do hope he achieves some of the moves noted here. And others. The Robots Have Spoken: AMC Renews Human